Sunday, January 11, 2009

Disciples of Christ president to preach at inauguration

The New York Times reports:
President-elect Barack Obama has selected the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins to deliver the sermon at the national prayer service that is held the day after the inauguration.

Ms. Watkins, the first woman ever selected to lead the service, is the president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a small, liberal-leaning Protestant denomination with 3,754 congregations and about 690,000 members in the United States and Canada. Ms. Watkins was elected to the post in 2005, the first woman ever chosen to lead a mainline Protestant denomination.
Ms. Watkins has spoken out against torture and the war in Iraq, but as church president she has not taken a position on same-sex marriage. Like many mainline Protestant churches, the Disciples is not unified on the issue. As a congregational church, each church in the denomination is free to set its own policies.

Ms. Watkins said in a telephone interview that the church in Bartlesville, Okla., where she served as minister before becoming president, could not reach a consensus on whether to allow gay union ceremonies and decided to hold off on a decision


Fred Preuss said...

Don't we have something called the separation of church and state in this country?
I am truly looking forward to a US president who says, "You know, I haven't had an invisible friend since I was in 2nd grade."

PseudoPiskie said...

Well, Fred, you will have a long wait. Far too many US citizens believe this is a "Christian" nation and would not vote for such a person. Of course most of the people who say that seem to have little or no understanding of what their Bible says Jesus told us to do but that isn't important.

The verification word is "herbe". Perhaps that is their god's real name?

David |Dah • veed| said...

Mother Ann, you are confusing two different, but in full communion, denominations.

The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins is the President and General Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) The Disciples grew out of the Restoration Movement in the USA of the 1800s, led in part by Thomas & Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. The denomination is related to the nondenominational Churches of Christ, as both groups have shared history for having grown from the Restoration Movement.

The UCC, United Church of Christ, is a union church created in 1957 by the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. The Rev. John H. Thomas is currently the UCC's President and General Minister.

The UCC is a little more liberal than the DoC, but not by much.

David |Dah • veed| said...

BTW, there are currently three main stream US denominations with a woman leader;

The Episcopal Church, led by Primate and Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), led by the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, President and General Minister

The Metropolitan Community Church, led by the Rev Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator

Erp said...

Having a public prayer service in association with the ceremony is relatively rare and recent (with the exception of George Washington who attended with Congress an Episcopal service immediately after his first inauguration).

George Bush had one in 2005 and prior to that Reagan in 1985 both in the National Cathedral. Jimmy Carter had an interfaith service at the Lincoln Memorial.

Rev. Watkins may be giving the sermon, but, there will probably be a panoply of other ministers. Nice gestures would be to have an Imam, someone openly supportive of gays if not gay (e.g., Peter Gomes of Harvard or a MCC minister), and a Humanist. Expected would be a Catholic bishop or two, an Orthodox bishop, a rabbi.

Fred Preuss said...

An even nicer gesture would be a ten minute ceremony costing the taxpayers of the US as little as possible, resembling a coronation/investiture as little as possible, keeping church and state as far apart as possible.
The object is not to see how many speakers to invisible friends we can invite to speak at one time.

JCF said...

Fred P, you are officially chapping my ass w/ your one-note trolling---of this, and ever-increasing #s of Episcopal blogs (I know the mods, and I'm betting they'll agree w/ me, and SOON!).

Get a new tune, or get your own blog!

What Daveed said [Daveed, do you have a special interest in ecumenism---as you know, that's my academic background---or just curiousity and Google? You're spot on, either way! ;-) ]

Erp said...


I actually agree that there should be no ministers involved. However I don't think they are going to be banished immediately and so a diversity of faiths (and philosophical systems such as humanism) should be represented.

Even without ministers, poets, music, the ceremony would still be a bit longer than 10 minutes. If nothing else the vice-president is sworn in at the same time. In addition it is customary for the president to give a speech laying out his plans. In the briefest, I think that will take longer than 10 minutes.

I believe also that most of the expense is paid for by donations and not by the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

JCF is right, Fred P (not to be confused with OUR Fred) is a troll. Do not rise to the bait, please.


David |Dah • veed| said...

Fred, this is a National Prayer Service held the day after the Inauguration. Much of the money to pay for the inaugural festivities are raised from private funds. You, as a ratepayer, are footing the bill to provide the security.

This is President Obama's moment, this is his Inauguration, not yours. He should be able to have it as he wants to have it, ultimately. And if he wishes to affirm his commitment to uphold your Constitution and to the responsibilities of his office in the name of his God, he should be able to do so!

I am pretty sure that the original founding document that called the USA into existence mentioned the Creator and the rights endowed upon all of us by nature's Creator. The USA is not a Christian nation, because it is a multicultural nation, but it was founded by and still includes many people of faith.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Dr. Fisher, I have a 4 year ThM, an academic degree, as opposed to the MDiv, with three areas of emphasis; liturgy and worship, church history of North America and pastoral care. But Wikipedia and Google are my friends who help me flesh out the present day specifics of modern day denominationalism, which are always changing, and is more than anyone could carry around in their head.

David said...

Not to disagree with the big theological brains around here, but I've always heard that the mainline denominations were:

The Episcopal Church, the UMC, the ELCA, the UCC, and the Presbyterians (whether to count the conservative off-shots of the Lutherans and the Presbyterians, the LCMS and the PCA, is a gray area for me but I tend to think not. See below for why).

Mind you, this in no way implies mainstream. I've always thought of the mainlines as Protestant denominations with a mix of conservative, moderate, and liberal theologies who mostly count middle-class, suburban folks as the base of their congregations. Their hallmark seems to be moderation.

I believe the term "mainline" came from a description of suburbia based upon one of the first suburban areas in the country - those towns along the Mainline commuter rail outside of Philadelphia, PA. The idea was that they represented "typical" suburban Americans.

Ann said...

Thanks David (Dah-veed) -- I do know the difference but obviously messed up the headline --- have clergy friends in both denoms - hope they did not see it. YIKES.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Brother David, I was using mainstream to refer mostly to theological positions, less to their relevancy by population of Statesonian members.

By comparison they are in order by size;
TEC 2.1 M
DoC <1 M
MCC <50 T

JCF said...

There are varying origin stories, David, but you're basically correct (I've favored the one that it referred to PRR execs, and thus "Mainline" meant tonier, wealthier White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). At any rate, as long as you remember that Mainline starts as a brand, not a mathamatical formula (e.g., mainstream = median), you'll be safest. [There's no official list of Mainline denominations. Some even include (the US expression of) the RCC, while most would keep it all Protestant (well, excepting TEC, of course! ;-D). Few would include any Pentecostal denominations].

To some extent, it is the willingness to participate in ecumenical organizations (i.e., participate w/ the Mainline WASP denominations), which practically, locally, marks who is Mainline, and who is not (ergo, some Pentecostal churches/judicatories---esp. predominantly African-American ones, like COGIC---may behave in a more Mainline fashion, if they are represented in a state/local council of churches).

Oy: this is how I use my doctorate---to blather as if I'm an expert on anything... {Sigh---feeling esp. depressed about my continuing unemployment right now. Please keep me in your prayers/thoughts}

David said...

JCF wrote: as long as you remember that Mainline starts as a brand, not a mathematical formula

Yes, exactly :) So I'm really not debating Dah-veed here. It's not numbers, it's brand, image, etc...

Some even include (the US expression of) the RCC

Hmmm...don't know if that "fits" the brand. Not to say that there aren't plenty of white, suburban, middle-class Roman Catholics :D Like you said, "Mainline" meant tonier, wealthier White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

To some extent, it is the willingness to participate in ecumenical organizations

Indeed. Participation in something like the National Council of Churches seems to me to be de riguer for a "mainline" denomination.

Fred Preuss said...

Are these the same Disciples of Christ who've lost over 45% of their membership since 1970?
They're about half a million people out of 305 million, still shrinking and overwhelmingly white and middle class.
How does this 'celebrate diversity'?
Mainline still means, wealthier, tonier, European Protestants. It's still NPR at prayer. What's changed is that it was over 1/3rd of the population when Eisenhower opened the National Council of Churches' office; now, it's about 8% of the population and dropping.
Anyone care to refute any of these facts?
Anyone care to say why those of us in the non-theist community should listen to any of you anymore?

Fred Preuss said...

And the people who make donations will expect nothing in return...
'Creator' in the constitution could mean anything. It doesn't mean that there has to be 'so help me god' at the end of the presidential oath.
If Robinson wants to mince around in a chasuble, that's his business. If he claims he has a 'prophetic ministry' and can lecture me on how to vote, that's my business.
The same with Robertson and Farrakan and Sharpton. Hitchens is right-"I don't think 'Reverend' is a title of honor."